Do you have a gun in your home?

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Tom Garrett 1 year, 4 months ago

You all know how I feel about our rights in general, and our gun rights in particular, so I am happy to tell you that if you receive an e-mail with a title like that you can just ignore it.

For those of you who haven't gotten the e-mail, it talks about nurses and doctors asking questions about guns in the house, or a questionnaire at a doctor's office asking about them, or questions being asked at a VA office about whether you are stressed, feeling threatened, or have the feeling that you want to harm someone.

Guess where I went to check the validity of the e-mails? The NRA. And just to be sure I checked a couple of other sites that I know I can trust.

The result? Another case of wild eyed exaggeration.

Here's what the NRA had to say about it:

Consider everything below to be in direct quotes:

Rumor Alert: Veterans’ Health and "Sporting Purposes"

Posted on January 6, 2012

Among the thousands of questions NRA-ILA answers every month by email, phone and letter are scores that begin “This guy told me he heard …” Unfortunately, all too often this is the telltale sign of one of the rampant rumors that circulate around campfires or gun store counters, and especially on the Internet. Three of the most recent top rumors involve veterans’ gun rights, the status of the “sporting purposes” test for firearms importation, and new restrictions on gun shows.

The first of these stems from a widely circulated email, allegedly from a “Vietnam vet and retired police officer,” claiming he visited a Department of Veterans Affairs clinic and was asked several mental health questions. The message goes on to claim that the nurse told him a “wrong” answer would be “reported … to Homeland Security” and result in the loss of his Right-to-Carry permit.

Fortunately for veterans, that warning was incorrect. It’s true that mental health questions are now standard procedure during the patient intake process at VA facilities. That's a result of heightened concern about post-traumatic stress disorder and similar legitimate issues affecting veterans.

However, the Department of Homeland Security isn't the agency that compiles records of people who are prohibited from possessing firearms. The FBI does that, in order to operate the National Instant Criminal Background Check System. And although some VA records are reported to NICS, a record will only be reported if the person has been "adjudicated as a mental defective"—in other words, that the person is mentally incompetent.

(more of quote)

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Tom Garrett 1 year, 4 months ago

At the VA, a person can only be found incompetent after a lengthy process that includes the opportunity for a hearing and appeal. Just telling a nurse you feel "stressed" (as the email claims) wouldn’t be enough. And the NICS Improvement Amendment Act of 2007 not only makes clear that any "adjudication" without those procedures won't result in the loss of gun rights, but also provides a way for those who have been found incompetent to get the finding reversed.

End of direct quote from the NRA.

Please note: The NRA notice mentioned three rumors, but I haven't said anything about the other two rumors because as you read they on completely different subjects.

Anyway, relax. Medicare does not require that you be asked if you have a gun in your house, and nothing about guns will become part of your medical record. Nor is there anything in the health care bill about guns; not a word. So much for that.

Now, as to the VA questions: If you happen to go to a VA clinic and they ask you questions about stress, it will be because you went there for that reason, or because they are trying to diagnose whether or not you are suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).

The VA will not report your answer to Homeland Security. In the first place, Homeland Security is not the agency which compiles records of people who are prohibited from possessing firearms, that's the FBI, and the FBI only keeps records for the NICS (National Instant Criminal Background Check System).

So forget it. The "e-mail" is an odd thing. It appears to be a compilation of three e-mails, add-ons when someone sent a "forward" and someone else added to it. Part of it seems to be traceable to a 2009 piece about VA patients, and the three parts can be found in stray places on the net, as well as all together in a current e-mail.

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Tom Garrett 1 year, 4 months ago

I thought I should mention what NICS, the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, is in case anyone doesn't know. It's the high speed computerized system that is used to do a quick check when someone goes to buy a gun. It has nothing whatever to do with who can carry a gun, with or without a concealed weapon permit.

I'm not crazy about gun laws, but if any gun law make sense it's this one. It allows us to check whether or not someone is a felon when he goes to buy a weapon. Without it, someone could come straight out of prison, buy a gun, and be back in business. Of course, we all know that felons get guns anyway, but I suppose there's no harm in at least making it a little harder for them.

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